There’s a lot to be said about being on the same page as your partner financially. Teamwork makes the dream work after all. But when I think about some of the best financial savvy that I learned growing up, I realize that much of it comes from the fact that I grew up in a house with parents who weren’t quite on the same page.
Mom – If potatoes were on sale at one grocery store and another advertised a bargain on milk, you had better believe that we were stopping at multiple stores that week. Or that day. Whether the weekly ads were pulled from Sunday papers or the mailbox, my mom would carefully coordinate the stack with pages folded every which way as she diligently made her grocery list. In fact, she still does this.
Dad – Once, he received an urgent phone call from my mom, who was also at work, on behalf of my nana. She and I were baking, and we were out of butter. Never one to miss an opportunity for fresh bread or hot-out-of-the-oven cookies, my dad promised to stop by on his lunch break with the ingredients needed for our next treat. If you make a left turn out of my parents’ neighborhood, you hit a convenience mart. If you turn right, you find a local grocery store. It turns out, you also find butter for $6 at one store and $2 at the other. Guess where Dad stopped? Needless to say, Mr. Time is Money still doesn’t get asked to grocery shop very often.
My takeaways – I always shop from a list. And though I’ve largely sworn off couponing, I’m a big fan of mobile apps. I don’t generally go to multiple stores, but you won’t catch me grocery shopping in a convenience store unless it’s an absolute emergency. Nana’s cookies? Well, that might fit the bill.
Mom – The other day I tweeted about having over 5,000 unread emails in my Gmail promotions tab. To say it takes a lifetime of training to not only amass that kind of junk email, but to also tolerate staring that red number in the face whenever I use my phone might be an understatement. My mom is the queen of coupons. Not in the crazy couponing, you-don’t-even-wear-contacts way that I was. But I honestly can’t recall a time in my life when she shopped the mall or shopped online without looking for a deal first.
Dad – My dad has always lived by the philosophy that the only way to really save money is to not spend any. I can’t tell you how many times he torpedoed my bubble as I rattled off the sale prices on my more recent haul from the mall. But that’s not to say he won’t shop or eat out. He does. But what he won’t do is use a coupon. Not too long ago, Mr. P and I met my mom and dad for dinner at a local Mexican food restaurant. When we sat down, my mom placed a coupon on the table. After finishing a round of chips and salsa, my dad promptly snatched the coupon, wadded it up, and tossed it on his plate. In just enough salsa to guarantee my mom wouldn’t attempt to fish it out.
My takeaways – If I’m going to buy something, I’m going to get the best price possible. Sorry, Dad. But had it not been for the counterweight that is my father, I can only imagine how many pairs of shoes my closet once would have held.
Mom – To this day, my mom balances her checkbook to the penny. In fact, one of my favorite weekend memories was coming downstairs to see my mom perched at her desk with a calculator, a pile of receipts, and her checkbook in its blue pleather bank-issued cover. If she was off by so much as a cent, she would pour through her register, sometimes even recruiting me to key in the numbers that she rattled off. During the once-in-a-lifetime occasion where the bank actually made an error, she unleashed a victory dance generally reserved for lottery winners and Super Bowl MVPs.
Dad – While my mom commandeered the family’s recordkeeping, my dad ran the books for his business. And by ran the books, I mean kept all of his receipts, invoices, and other assorted bills in a leather pouch that he would drop off with his accountant every so often. His employees were always paid on time and his bills were always paid early and his bills were always paid early–much to my mom’s chagrin–but if he was off in his records by $25 or $50, he’d never sweat it. His accountant would sort it out, or so he would tell my mom with a smile, as her head started the subtlest of twitches.
My takeaways – I actually balanced a checkbook–and included my credit card expenses and payments–until about three years ago. Had I not learned to always have an idea, either to the penny or at least a general picture, of what was in all of my accounts, my shopping syndrome could have landed me in tons of consumer debt. Instead, it just prevented our savings from ever really taking off.
So Tell Me…What family finance lessons did you learn growing up? Was your family always on the same page?
Amy Kristin (@poshsweetly)
This is great. My husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to money and finances. It actually works really for us, bringing us a bit of balance. I bring him a dose of reality sometimes, and he brings me a dose of spontaneity other times. He’s definitely the ying to my yang!
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
I love that, Amy! That’s so great that you’ve figured out you don’t always have to be on the same page at the same time. I think it really makes marriages work for some people. My husband and I are the same way!
I grew up in a house similar to yours-my mom worked hard to stretch our money as far as it would go, and my dad would buy things of convenience. This is also how my partner and I are-I learned not to ask him to pick up groceries when he came home with two packages of $5.99/lb organic free range chicken breasts because “that’s all the store had.” (Really? Or is that the first thing you saw and just grabbed?)
I like that my partner has a different financial philosophy because it keeps me from being a money hoarder/miser and gives me permission to live a little, though. We strike a good balance.
Mrs. Picky Pincher
Bahaha, this is adorable! My parents were never on the same page. I don’t think they even maintained a budget–as long as all the bills were paid, everything was just fine. From them I learned that Mr. Picky Pincher and I have to move as one unit. We talk about our budget and our money goals very often and there are zero surprises.
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
Yup. Same with the no budget thing growing up. For how incredibly opposite they both are, they were always working towards the same big-picture goals. They definitely had different theories on how to get there, though. It’s been fun (and funny) to watch them both try to get ready for retirement.
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
My parents were both picky, but about completely random things. Mom is more proactive, and my stepdad is more reactive. Except for big stuff and then they’re completely opposite. My stepdad saved up for years ahead of time before buying a new car in cash. But! I learned a lot of great lessons from them about finances over the years so I guess it worked out 🙂
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
That’s definitely an invaluable lesson about buying cars! I think having two different money playbooks modeled for me was actually really helpful.
Let’s say I never learned any money lessons from my mom. She budgets so she can put food on the table, but I don’t think she’s too savvy with money.
I’m definitely from a “let’s pay now and figure things out later” kind of family 😉
That’s really hard. That was my mom’s experience growing up. In fact, I still don’t know how my grandma got by on her own. Sometimes non-examples are great teachers, though I wouldn’t wish them on anyone!
Matt @ Optimize Your Life
Sounds like we had similar experiences when it came to grocery shopping. My mom would line up the coupons and plan out which items to get at which stores before going out for her Saturday of grocery shopping. My dad would just pick a grocery store and buy whatever was needed. My mom has always been about deals and my dad has always been of the mindset that if you need something, then get it, and if you don’t, then don’t.
Yes! That’s a great summary of their money philosophies. He still tries to point out things like gas and time and everything else. But my mom just ignores him. 43 years of wedded bliss 😉
And isn’t it weird how siblings can meld those in different ways? My dad knows, to the penny, exactly how much is in his bank account and he doesn’t spend ever, while my mom has no idea how much money she has and she’s a spender. My mom always jokes that my sister and I somehow managed to meld those into opposite personalities. I know exactly how much is in every account that I have at all times and I spend like it’s going out of style (I’m working on that). My sister has no idea how much money she has, but she never spends a dime. We acquired one habit from each of our parents in a way.
My mom also has an MBA that she got in the 90’s and her dissertation was on personal finance for women. So my sister and I managed to absorb random knowledge from her talks when we were kids that also falls into line with those melded habits. Mom used to practice her public speaking for class in front of my sister and I. It’s kinda weird/great to see how the speeches my mom had to make for class also impacted the two of us financially now even if that wasn’t the intention.
That is funny how it works with siblings! I’m an only, so I just I’m just the blur of both of them 🙂 And can I say how awesome I think your mom is? What a fantastic, fantastic thing to expose kiddos to. I love it!
Emily @ JohnJaneDoe
Mom, stepmother, and Dad all had different money strategies.
With Mom, we rarely did fancy stuff, though we went out to eat, had regular vacations (rented cabins/beach cottages), and were signed up for plenty of activities. Food prices rarely came up, but there were few convenience foods in the house and lots of fresh healthy stuff. Mom did find some cheap ways to travel internationally and found money for regular investments.
My stepmother was more of a couponer who bought lots of cheap food. We ate tons of packaged/can foods over there, white bread and bologna, etc. On the other hand, we also went to much nicer restaurants and nice resort vacations with her and my Dad. They drove nice newer cars, had tons of nice clothes, sent my brothers to private school, and they always talked about not having enough money and still don’t understand investing very well.
Guess which one retired at 60 and which ones are still working?
I try to follow my mom’s example. Spend on good food instead of crap and good experiences instead of expensive ones. Don’t spend so much on clothes and newish cars, invest money, and enjoy life. I love my Dad and stepmother, and respect them a ton for their generosity and community involvement, but I try not to follow their financial path.
I think that’s a really good hallmark of adulthood or maturity, Emily. To be able to respect a path and choose not to follow. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
So interesting! I actually don’t really know how they own views were with money looking at groceries, saving and spending. They were really good in explaining it to us, after they talked over it together first. So the things we heard we always already aligned by the both of them.
Seeing them now, my mother is more risk averse and is more in detail on what she should do with her savings. Whereas my father has his own ideas about it, but in the end just follows my mother along in her sayings 🙂
That’s really interesting. My mom was always more vocal about money. I think it’s so fascinating how different families do different things. So much to learn from so many strategies!
Not caring to do the work of couponing yourself is one thing, but throwing her work in the salsa is another. Not ok behavior.
My dad would drive across town for gas that was one cent cheaper. It was silly to watch even then. My mother would have her utilities off all the time. Neither gave good solid lessons.
Yeah. I’m sure he got elbowed. That’s pretty much their relationship.
Normally, I get gas whenever I see a gas station and remember to fill up. This week, I didn’t because I knew I was running errands in a different town later (and still had 1/4 of a tank). I saved 60 cents a gallon! I was so shocked.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
Dad was horrible with money, and still kind of is. He can abstain from using it, in some cases, but there are more than a few cases where he makes just the Absolute Worst decisions. And it’s kind of heartbreaking that he continues to keep making them.
Mom was better in that she worked really hard to save money but it was hard for her to save that money from Dad’s ventures because they had completely combined finances and trusted or supported each other a little too much. It’s hard to say if they were EVER on the same page, and I certainly wasn’t on the same page as any of them growing up, either. I learned my lessons watching their mistakes, well intentioned though they were.
I’m sorry that Dad is still making those missteps. I know what an impact they have on you, and I also know what you do for your family. Well, I have an inkling. I suppose I don’t really know 😉
Courtney @ YourAverageDough
I love this post! It’s really very interesting to compare two parents’ views to each other.
My parents STILL have very different financial mindsets. My father is the spender and my mother is the saver; my father is the gambler and my mom is anti-risk. The one thing they have always done is try to be DIYers around the house. For example, they are currently in the process of staining their patio.
I think I ended up with a mix of both their mindsets, but I am more knowledgeable of the endless financial resources and tools out there!
That’s really neat that they come together to DIY. I think my favorite relationships to watch are the ones where people can be so different and yet completely gel.
Finances in my family were a stressful secret, with all sorts of surprises after the eventual divorce…
So I’m grateful that my husband and I are very transparent and work from the ‘one pot’ philosophy. We still have different styles, and I’m definitely more frugal, but we agreed on a budget and we stick to it (mostly).
One pot team here, too! I understand other perspectives, and I’m happy that people do what works for them, but I really think the one pot mentality helps us be a better team.
We didn’t do coupons, but my mom was all about buying generic brands. She had my brother and I trained to look at (and sometimes calculate) the cost per ounce and compare brands, usually with generic winning. Only toilet paper and cookie dough were not bought generic.
Hey Penny. The most important lesson I learned growing up was work. My mom and dad always worked. In fact, I don’t ever remember my dad calling in sick. But my parents weren’t savers. They always had monthly payments that took up the bulk of their take-home pay. Not exactly smart, but not exactly reckless. Dad had a very secure civil service job with a great pension.
Enjoyed this post a lot! Made me think about my parents’ money habits shaped me in some way. Greetings from a reader from Barcelona! Xx
Now that we have an infant, I am constantly thinking about the money messages I want to send to him. So glad you stopped by, Miriam!